Turning agriculture into a promised land

Tuesday, 2021-02-16 10:45:27
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Rice harvesting in Long Xuyen Quadrangle. (Photo: Thanh Tung)
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NDO - Vietnam's economic growth rate still managed to expand by 2.91% in 2020, one of the countries with the highest growth rate in the region and the world despite the serious impact of both natural disasters and the pandemic. This result saw a significant contribution from the agricultural sector with impressive figures in both production and export.

An economic pillar

“Through our country's revolutionary practice, especially in the current context of the economy being affected by an unprecedented pandemic, we can affirm that the peasant class, the agricultural economy and the rural area have always been the pillar of the economy and a loyal and firm supporter of the Party and the people whenever the country has seen difficulties and hardships,” said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at a ceremony marking the 90th anniversary of the Vietnam Farmers’ Association held in October 2020. He also recognised the outstanding achievements of the entire agricultural sector in 2020, itself a year full of fluctuations in terms of both opportunities and challenges.

Agricultural development has become an "inspirational story" for many economic sectors, particularly food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in China and then spread around the world, causing disruption to global trade, food security immediately became a concern for many countries across the world, including Vietnam.

However, that worry was quickly resolved when the winter-spring rice crop in 2019 - 2020 was a bumper season with a yield of 66.4 quintals per ha and a total output of 19.9 million tonnes. The following crops also posted bumper harvests with high rice prices, creating a large amount of food, and not only ensuring national food security but also serving export growth.

Besides production, 2020 also witnessed a strong breakthrough in agricultural, forestry and fishery exports with total turnover of over US$41 billion, turning Vietnam into one of the leading countries in Southeast Asia in terms of agricultural exports.

This not only strengthens the economy but also contributes significantly to ensuring social security as agricultural growth helps create job opportunities, boosts income and improves the lives of local workers. Besides the economic value, it also boasts a great social value.

Caring for agriculture

Many economists believe that more investment is needed in the agricultural sector because this is an area with great growth potential. Investment in agriculture not only serves the purpose of growth as this area is very vulnerable to the risks of natural disasters, epidemics and economic downturn in the country and the world.

The number of migrants from the Mekong River Delta - the key agricultural region of the country has shown many things. According to the annual economic report of the Mekong Delta region in 2020, the number of people migrating out of the region in the 10 years from 2009 to 2019 was nearly 1.1 million people, larger than the population of several provinces in the region and equivalent to the increase in natural population of the whole region.

Meanwhile, inward migration rates remains very low, the Mekong Delta being the only region in the country which saw a population growth rate of 0% between 2009 and 2019.

The main reason is that the majority of young workers have migrated to the Southeast and other regions to find jobs as the Mekong Delta economy, an agriculture-based economy, has yet to meet the livelihood demands of local workers.

During the discussions on the socio-economic situation at the 10th session of the 14th National Assembly in November 2020, Ho Thanh Binh, a National Assembly deputy from An Giang province expressed his belief that the Mekong Delta region has been doing a good job in terms of agricultural production and ensuring national food security. However, the region now faces economic lag, unstable incomes of local farmers, and heavy dependence on the market with the repeated problem of falling prices amid bumper crops. Therefore, it is necessary to have a development strategy for the Mekong Delta as a key economic region of the country in the 2021 – 2025 period with a vision to 2030-2045.

Deputy Ho Thanh Binh’s view also shows a that we should soon devise an overall development strategy for the region with the specific goal of promoting the advantages of each area, making agriculture a "promised land" to attract more domestic and foreign investment.

It is also important to see a large number of migrants move back as well as retain remaining workers to build the country's agricultural sector into one of the main pillars of the economy, not just playing a supporting role in times of danger.

Over the past 10 years (2009 - 2019), the entire agricultural sector posted an average growth rate of 2.61% per year and a production value growth rate of 3.64%, making a significant contribution to national GDP growth. In particular, in the third quarter of 2020, the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors achieved a growth rate of 2.93%, higher than the industry and service sectors.